Metropolitan Planning Council: Chicago’s Rivers Need Us, Just as We Need Them

For too long, the bonds between our rivers and ourselves have been broken. Thanks to a relative few advocates, driven by their commitment to our rivers’ incredible potential, we have begun to mend past and present transgressions. We’ve even created truly great new experiences along our rivers, such as downtown Chicago’s Riverwalk, which give us all reason to strive for more.

Now it’s time to go the rest of the way, to restore the bonds between us and our great rivers. Did you realize that it’s possible we could swim in Chicago’s rivers by 2030? But to make that a reality, we need you.

Our Great Rivers is the city’s first-ever long-term vision for the Calumet, Chicago and Des Plaines rivers. The nonprofit Metropolitan Planning Council worked with Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the City of Chicago, Friends of the Chicago River and dozens more partners to identify some 100 actions we can take to dramatically improve Chicago’s rivers by 2040.

We organized more than 100 events to engage some 6,000 Chicagoans in sharing their ideas for our rivers, including nine community open houses, paddling excursions, bike rides, boat tours, site walks, factory visits, design charrettes and more. We also dug into reams of past reports and findings, and conducted original research.

While we did our best to reach everyone we could, we know that many more people throughout the region would like to shape our rivers’ future. We need everyone: property owners, business leaders, philanthropists, elected officials, teachers and students, paddlers and fishers, artists and more!

What we give to our rivers, they’ll give back in the form of solace, movement, nature and places to connect with each other and ourselves. Our great rivers can rejuvenate communities and ecosystems, bring us closer to wildlife, and build our economy.

Chicago, your vision is that our rivers will be inviting, living and productive places by 2040. While government will need to lead on activities such as ending combined sewer overflows, reinvigorating sustainable economic productivity along the rivers, and even just putting signs on bridges to remind people “there’s a river down there,” it’s up to all of us to be advocates for our rivers. Just as we have long protected our lakefront, it’s our persistence, philanthropy and enthusiasm that will build a future for our rivers that is better than the present.

So join us. Make the Chicago, Calumet and Des Plaines your rivers — collectively, our great rivers — today.

Learn more at and donate to the effort at